Skagen is a medieval fishing town. An artists’ refuge. A cultural and culinary hot spot. Skagen is an environmental marvel. And, Skagen is a mindset. An idyllic small seaside town full of friendly people who haven’t forgotten their roots—or how history is reflected in every building that speaks to the Skagen style of architecture.
Early Skagen was an important fishing village that was granted municipality rights in 1413. The houses at the time were built of boards (often from stranded ships), as there was no clay in the area and bricks were too expensive. Houses normally faced east and west to protect them from the strong westerly wind, and windows faced south to take full advantage of the sun.
Improvements in fishing, and the first rail line into the village, led to better times in the late-19th century. More graceful houses were built and tile roofs were added, following new regulations.
Ulrik Plesner, later considered one of Denmark’s most important architects, is credited with the “Skagen style” of architecture. He began with an extension to the famous Brøndums Hotel (he was friends with the owner, Degn Brøndum). Plesner went on to design the royal summer residence, Klitgården, as well as the Skagen Hospital.
Locals began hiring him to design their villas and summer homes. Today, most of the houses in Skagen are yellow with red-clay roofs, giving the town a distinct and harmonious appearance. The younger Danish royals still visit Skagen during the summer. For them, as for many Danes, the trip to this singular spot—a five-hour drive from Copenhagen— remains a magical pilgrimage.